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FM & Romeo's Daughter @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham (23/5/10)

posted 25 Jul 2011, 14:31 by Paul Woodward

This was my first visit to the O2 Academy 2 and I was a little unsure about the venue… not sure it’s going to become a favourite of mine, although the bar service was first class! The stage was a little smaller than I expected for a venue of this capacity and didn’t really give the bands much room to move about. I had hoped the band may have played somewhere in the Black Country, such as The Robin in Bilston or The Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. Having talked to MR editor Peter Keevil after his interview with Pete Jupp, he said the band wanted to do a short tour to include the capitals of all the principalities of the UK, hence Belfast, Cardiff, London, Glasgow (yeah I know, but shhhh!) and of course the capital of the Midlands: Birmingham.

Romeo’s Daughter reformed last year for a proposed one-off appearance at annual Melodic Rock/AOR festival Firefest, and although it had been a very long time since the band split, all original members were up for it. So once more, Leigh Matty (Vocals), Craig Joiner (Guitars) , Tony Mitman (Keyboards), Andy Wells (Drums) & Ed Poole (bass) joined forces. Given the massively positive reactions to their performance from the fans at Firefest, the band thought they may just keep on going!

I’ve been a massive fan of the band for many years now, but unfortunately when I got into music at 16, Romeo’s Daughter had already parted ways, so I never got the opportunity to witness the band live. So, as tonight would be the first time ever I would see the band live, I had been anticipating this evening with a great sense of disbelief and excitement in equal measures. This would be only the band’s second performance in 18 years; I still can’t quite believe I saw them perform!

Having heard rumors that some of the previous dates hadn’t been well attended, I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, so I was really pleased for both bands that this show’s turnout was near enough a full house. Romeo’s Daughter took to the stage to a massive applause and had the diehards at the front showing their love. The band kicked off with “Heaven in the Backseat”, which came across really well and hit all the right spots with the crowd. I knew then that we were going to get a fantastic, well played set and immaculate performance from the entire band.

They continued with a set mostly from their classic debut album. The setlist included “Velvet Tongue”, “Attracted to the Animal” & killer ballad “Stay With Me Tonight” which was greeted with cheers from the noisy crowd. The stage size didn’t really allow for the band to get overly active, but I found Leigh’s performance mesmerizing as she danced and did her thing throughout the band’s show. The whole group seemed at ease with one another and their performance came across confidently. You would never have known that the band had ever split up so many years ago and with shows like this it is great to have all these talented musicians back in business!

The band’s sound is perhaps a little lighter than most rockers would like, but this reaction wasn’t evident tonight and by the end of the set the band had definitely won themselves some new fans. Personally, I find Romeo’s Daughters’ style of commercial and accessible AOR to be pure ear candy! In fact, even if you don’t know Romeo’s Daughter, you have more than likely heard many of their songs as plenty have been covered over the years by artists all over the world, including: Heart, Bonnie Tyler and *cough* Steps, to name but a few. This just proves how great many of the band’s songs truly are.

The band’s final trio of tracks really showed the band at its best and was greeted by an ever-increasingly noisy crowd! So, we got my highlight of the set: the heart wrenching “I Cry Myself to Sleep”, then the full-on rock of “Wild Child” & the catchy as hell “Don’t Break My Heart”. The band left the stage to a crowd hungry for more. It’s a good job it was FM coming on next or it could have gotten messy!

After the gig, I had the pleasure of meeting Romeo’s Daughter’s stunningly beautiful front woman, Leigh Matty, who had me a little star-struck. However, she was really friendly and very easy to chat to. At this point I was starting to think I was living in the Twilight Zone. Not only had I just witnessed Romeo’s Daughter perform a cracking set, but I was now having a conversation with Leigh Matty! It was great to hear what’s going on with band and what’s coming up for them direct from the source. Of course, the band have an upcoming hometown gig with FM in London which the band are very excited about. Also, the band have an upcoming gig at Winstanley College in Wigan which they hope to record for a live CD and also a live DVD, which I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on.

Leigh mentioned that, unfortunately, the band don’t own the rights to a lot of their own music, so this is a way for the band to reclaim some of their work back and also give something new to their fans after such a long time away. The band also has plans to do a new album, which Leigh assures me will be in the vein of their previous music and not a radical departure to perhaps a more contemporary style. Leigh was also very pragmatic about the band’s return. This isn’t about fame or money (both of which she doesn’t expect or desire), it’s all about the music and as long as the fans are there, they’ll keep on going! She also assured me that headline gigs will be coming shortly, but they want to get a few live gigs under their belts to get back in the swing of things. So, come the headline dates, they can deliver the best possible shows for the fans, hence these support dates with FM.

The last time I saw FM was quite a few years ago. They have definitely taken this comeback slowly. They seemed a little rusty and needed a few more gigs to attain match fitness (so to speak), but I still enjoyed their set all the same. Tonight shows the past few years weren’t spent doing bugger all, ‘cause FM really are back and tonight’s performance showed the band firing on all cylinders, doing their best back on the road! The 600 or so in attendance tonight raised the roof as the band took to the stage to perform “Wildside” from their latest album “Metropolis”. When Steve asked the crowd what people thought of the new album the response was a unanimous cheer of approval from all in attendance.

Again the band didn’t have a lot of space on which to perform. Hopefully next time they are in the midlands they’ll find somewhere with a little more room to move. The band still put on an entertaining performance despite this, though. I was well impressed with guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick, who I thought was excellent throughout; he played every song in the style and sound as they were originally written. I had worried that he may have brought his own style or even pushed his own stamp onto the old songs, which for me would have been disastrous for the band. Gladly, he didn’t. Not only did he stay faithful, but he also wildly impressed with his abilities. He has turned out to be an excellent recruit to the FM family.

Setlist-wise, the band really mixed it up and tried to include as much from their back catalogue. “Face To Face”, “That Girl” & “Don’t Stop” kept the party going and the crowd went nuts for all of them. It was great to hear these AOR classics live once more. Steve then dedicated the next song to all the fans. “Only The Strong” - a poignant and emotive song, which was delivered fantastically and I loved it! “Blood & Gasoline” kept the hits coming before the we got another newbie in the form of “Hollow”, which is getting a lot of airplay on radio 2. No, you read that right - I shit you not - AOR on mainstream radio! “Hollow” is one of the more instant songs on the album so I’m not surprised it’s been picked up by someone in mainstream circles. Also, judging by the crowds reactions, I think it may be many fans’ favourite song from the new album!

Next up, we get another newbie with “Over You”, which comes across excellently live, with a lot of energy and excellent harmonies Their ain’t no denying how catchy this song is, especially with the infectious Foreigners “Cold As Ice” keyboard riff tickling your ear drums. I can’t say I’m huge fan of “Flamingo Road”, but I’m definitely in a minority in that opinion given the reactions from the crowd. “Hard Day in Hell” came next and left me a little cold. I was starting to wonder if the band were going off the boil for me. The crowd were still in the palm of their hand, though, hanging on every word and singing every lyric back at them.

However, I livened up for the next song which sent the crowd nuts as that unmistakable riff kicked in for “All Or Nothing”. I absolutely love that song and the band delivered it fantastically - it’s definitely my highlight of the set. Capitalising on the energy and the atmosphere created by the previous song, the band kick into “Burning My Heart Down” & then the dreaded “Heard it From the Grapevine”. I really hate this song and wish the band would dump it from their set, but when I saw the crowd’s reaction from my vantage point at the back of the hall, I realised very quickly that’s never going to happen. Every hand was up and every voice was raised as the audience loved every moment of this song!

The band then took a short break before returning for the encore: a trio of early FM AOR classics. Probably the most famous of their ballads “Frozen Heart” is received warmly, before the band kick into “Bad Luck” which had the crowd going and singing along. They finish their set with a fantastic performance of “American Girls”, which was a fantastic conclusion to the evening’s events, even seeing Jem Davis move upfront with his keytar! The crowd give the band a rapturous applause which the band soak up humbly. Steve thanks the crowd profusely for coming out and acknowledges that without their fantastic support, they wouldn’t be here. Drummer Pete Jupp comes to the front to nod his appreciation at the fans’ response and make his thanks known too, before leading the crowd in three cheers for Ronnie James Dio, who sadly passed away recently. The crowd duly complied and raised the roof in respect for the passing of a legend.

Hopefully this tour and album are only a taste of things to come, because judging by tonight’s performance, FM is well and truly back and this is just the beginning! “AOR is dead” my arse!